The Inception of Pepsi’s Advertising

1902 Pepsi Ad, Pepsi-Cola's First Known Advertisement
Pepsi-Cola’s First Known Advertisement

Pepsi’s advertising and branding strategies have changed drastically over the past century. Upon Pepsi’s inception by Caleb Bradham in 1893, a few logos were thrown around, but no actual advertising (that we know of) existed until 1902. In the early 1900’s, the brand’s advertising consisted of similar ads to the initial “Healthful and Invigorating” ad from 1902. All of these advertisements played off of the health factor Pepsi-Cola brought to the table at the time, in particular, the fact that it worked as an aid for indigestion. Most of us today do not think of Pepsi as “medicine,” but in the early 1900’s, colas of all types were marketed as a way to help with several health problems. The refreshing taste was only a plus.

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In 1909, automobile racer Barney Oldfield became Pepsi-Cola’s first “celebrity” endorser. He described it as “A bully drink…refreshing, invigorating, a fine bracer before a race.” For the next 20 plus years, the company would stick to the “healthy” advertising theme and continue to produce ads such as the one above.

Pepsi Ad 1930s, GIbson styled girl
Pepsi Ad from the 1930’s

By the 1930’s, Pepsi-Cola’s advertisements took on much more color as well as a fresh competitive edge. The Gibson-styled girl was a common image used in Pepsi-Cola ads at the time, using these capturing images in combination with competitive pricing to grab customer’s attention. Although the health factor still played a big role in the company’s advertising, Pepsi started to use the unfortunate aftermath of World War 1 to it’s advantage. Pepsi doubled the size of their bottles and used this as a key marketing tactic to outsell it’s competitors. There first advertising campaign in 1936 featured the jingle, “Pepsi-Cola hits the spot / Twelve full ounces, that’s a lot / Twice as much for a nickel, too / Pepsi-Cola is the drink for you.” This jingle referred to competitor Coca-Cola’s 6.5 ounce bottles. Coca-Cola priced these at at 5¢, while Pepsi offered basically double (12 ounce bottles) for the same price. Due to the economic crisis of America at the time, this marketing technique allowed the Great Depression to be a period in time for Pepsi’s popularity and profits to soar rather than plummet.

Pepsi-Cola kept up with technological advances and released it’s first commercial in December of 1950. Not only was this commercial a huge step in advertising, it featured none other than James Dean. This commercial was James Dean’s first TV appearance and paid job, and a beginning to an iconic career we would all come to know. As you can see, this commercial played to a new side and strength of the beverage, the “Pepsi Bounce.” Finally straying away from the commonly used “health aid”  selling point, the beverage brand began to shift it’s focus to the soda’s energy boosting side effects.

Stay tuned during the next two weeks to see how Pepsi’s advertising took off from here.